Matt Foley, a junior economics and management major, started a company with three partners that was recently named a Top-10 Finalist in the international Thought for Food Challenge. The Lincoln-native and his team of two other University of Nebraska–Lincoln students and a faculty advisor from the Biosystems Engineering Department submitted their online marketplace called FarmAfield into the competition. Over 500 entries from over 100 countries were submitted aimed at finding creative ways to face the global challenge of feeding the world.
Foley, Brennan Costello, a senior agribusiness major, and Andrew Minarick, a sophomore biosystems engineering major, worked with faculty advisor and lecturer Mitch Minarick to develop a transparent exchange of small production contracts between everyday people and farmers to address income volatility and increase investments in agriculture. The idea is to simplify the process for everyone to connect to agriculture.
“FarmAfield empowers anyone to be involved in agriculture as we enable collaboration through our online and mobile marketplace,” said Foley. “The global summit gives us a platform to connect with mentors, venture capitalists and other startups from around the world who could help us take FarmAfield to the next level.”
As a Thought For Food Challenge finalist, the FarmAfield team was awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to Switzerland this April for the TFF Global Summit, along with consulting services from agricultural and entrepreneurial experts before the trip. While in Switzerland, they will take part in a three-day startup accelerator program before pitching their idea to global experts in food security. One of the 10 finalists will also receive $15,000 in seed funding.
Foley utilized what he learned in his classes and in serving as a project manager for the student organization Enactus to contribute to the FarmAfield team by leading their business development initiatives.
“So far I have worked on developing our business model, evaluating data analytics, conducting customer interviews and helping with process validation,” he said. “On top of our support from our faculty advisor and from units on East Campus, the College of Business Administration has been a huge support in our endeavor. Dr. Sam Nelson (assistant professor of practice) and the Center for Entrepreneurship helped us gainconnections in the startup community.”
Foley said the FarmAfield team came together through getting to know each other as members of FarmHouse Fraternity and participating in the Newman Center. Costello and Andrew Minarick are both entrepreneurs in the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at UNL.
Thought for Food is a movement dedicated to tackling the global challenge of feeding nine billion people through bold, breakthrough solutions. The annual competition is designed to catalyze university students from all fields of study to learn more about the complex challenges surrounding food security.
To learn more about FarmAfield, visit www.farmafield.com